Record Review: The Passions – Sanctuary DLX RM US CD [part 2]

The Passions in sepiatone

[…continued from last post]

The Passions - Jump For Joy UK 7" coverThe prerelease single let us know from the start that The Passions were moving on from their patented echoplexed New Wave guitar sound as typified by the hit “I’m In Love With A German Film Star.” The guitars [of Barbara Gogan and guest Kevin Armstrong] here took a back seat to the synthesizers of featured player Jeff Smith, who had done keyboard honors of Lene Lovich’s “Stateless” album earlier. The track’s subtle, but complex, disco pulse befitted a song about the joys of dancing. The almost wordless chorus was a throwback to an old OMD gambit with vocalist Barbara Gogan’s soaring expression vocals mirroring the synth lines of Smith and only the title sung at the end. The end result was exceptional club music that had more than enough chops to have a serious half life off of the dance floor.

The next track was quite a different proposition with the saffron haze of sitar noise joining the African rhythms and the spectacle of Ms. Gogan singing… in French. Well, The Police had thrown that linguistic gauntlet the previous year on “The Ghost In The Machine.” Then the middle eight featured [I’m guessing, here] Kevin Armstrong digging into a slide dobro solo for maximum eclecticism. Ms. Gogan vacillated back to English for the song’s chorus. It was a vibrant mix on offer here.

The echoplex guitar finally made an appearance on the sumptuous third track, “Into Night.” Gorgeous guitar tone shared the soundstage with delicate, flute-like synths [recalling the demure China Crisis around the same time] as once the song really got a head of steam on, the arrangement played its winning card with a pure John Barry chord sequence. Was this song, in fact, a rejected Bond theme? Lots of band have them and they’re always a great sound. Usually better than whatever got officially picked at the time. It had the right stuff to these ears! The cinematic fade was a perfect way for this song to end as it returned to the same synth drone that it had opened with. The sophistication on offer so far on this album made me deeply regret that I was only hearing it now for the first time, courtesy of this release. Alas, The Passions were thin on the ground where I lived in 1982, but I would have been, er… passionate about this album if I had only a clue back then.

The cocktail jazz piano that opened “Small Talk” set the late night mood of quietude that the song was all about. The echoplex and synths were largely banished here as they would have burst the pensive, jazz-like mood, though a modest synth solo did manifest in the middle eight and climax of the number. After this diversion, the energy levels got an uptick with the almost frantic sounding “White Lies.” The synth flourishes over the fast tempo drums of Richard Williams attained the sort of vibe that Thomas Dolby was getting ready to unleash on his first album. The song’s brilliant chorus let Ms. Gogan make the case for being strong enough to take the truth [no matter how bitter it might be] with a repetitive, monolithic structure that really emphasized the very resilience that the song was all about. Then the breakneck pace of the song ended suddenly on a single note’s fade. This was some exceptional songwriting, well produced by Mick Glossop here.

Next: …They’ve Got A Fast Car

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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5 Responses to Record Review: The Passions – Sanctuary DLX RM US CD [part 2]

  1. SimonH says:

    It’s funny my cd version of this is a CD-R Rubellan did many, many moons ago.
    Will need to upgrade to the official version.
    Haven’t picked up the first album on cd, mainly because I dimly recall being disappointed when I bought the vinyl version in the mid 80s, should I reconsider?

    Like

  2. Tim says:

    My introduction to the was the Pet Shop Boys cover. I revisited it the original on YouTube and it’s alright but Neil and Chirs own it now. I sit on the fence with exploring this one further, I never knew the who of the band and that intrigues me….all the Cure comparisons deter me.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Being that Chris Parry produced the first album it does slot right in with early Cure. The later two albums keep moving outward. New Wave with obvious Post-Punk roots still showing in the best way. “Sanctuary” sounds nothing like The Cure. The Rubellan Remasters site has song samples you can try out. I think RR only has a physical license so I think it is not on digital/streaming right now. At least not iTunes. Albums like “Sanctuary” are what thrill me most nearly 40 years later. I’ve never heard the PSB version of “I’m In Love With A German Filmstar.”

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